Laura Veirs has had a great 2010 so far.
The folk singer/songwriter’s seventh studio album, “July Flame,” recently debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Heatseekers and Folk charts. It has also been garnering unprecedented media attention, earning overwhelmingly positive reviews from NPR and the New York Times, among others.
But Veirs isn’t fazed by the attention. Instead, the Portland, Ore., native watches how the media hype translates into fan appreciation — and enjoys it.
“I haven’t done much reading of the press on this record or previous ones,” Veir tells Billboard.com. “But I can say that the reaction to this new album has been great in terms of turnouts at shows and general interest from the media. That’s a great feeling.”
Released on Jan. 12 on the Veir’s own boutique label Raven Marching Band Records, “July Flame” — as well as the title track from the album — was named after a peach at a farmer’s market. This method of inspiration is not unusual to Veirs, who explains, “I’m constantly trying to stay awake in life and draw inspiration from whatever I’m doing. Sometimes I sit down with a title already picked out for the song, but most of the time I’m just doodling around on the guitar. Something comes out and I develop it for a while, and it either turns into something or it doesn’t.”
“July Flame” is a bit of a departure for Veirs; the album was recorded in Veirs’ and producer/partner Tucker Martine’s home instead of in a studio. Along with her core players and an added string quartet, Veirs collaborated with a range of artists on the album, including one of her most vocal fans: My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James. “It’s so much fun to work with people who you admire. Hearing Jim James singing in our living room was such a treat,” she says.
Veirs wasn’t always a folk artist; at Carleton College in Minnesota she started “Rair Kx!,” an all-female punk band. After she graduated she latched on to folk music. “I think a lot of ‘punks’ become interested in the roots of their country’s music, at some point, and that’s certainly what happened in my case,” Veirs says. “I could see the threads between the DIY philosophies of the punk movement and the bold attitudes of early country, folk and blues pioneers. There are lots of similarities between the simplicity of the messages and song structures in both folk and punk, so in my mind they’re different faces of the same beast.”
In the next year or two, Veirs will be working on another album and giving birth to her and Martine’s first child, due in mid-April, whom she hopes to bring on tour. As lofty as these goals are, Veirs has specific hopes for her work. “Music has the capacity to communicate beyond words and transcend everyday life,” she says. “When I hear music I love what spears me in the heart, or hits me in the gut in a good way. I hope my music can do that for people.”
With “July Flame,: Veirs has once again found a way to project her hopes unto the masses.